That meal you may be planning in your head sure sounds good, but if you’re like millions of others, some of the foods and ingredients you use may cause digestive discomfort. Acid reflux and heartburn are the most notorious signs of GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD is a condition that often comes and goes without warning, leaving behind pain, severe discomfort, and a bitter taste.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease activity increases food intolerances in some individuals and triggers symptoms. Certain risk factors are common in GERD patients, such as old age, health and medical history, dietary needs, and behaviors. GERD is manageable with the right treatments and lifestyle considerations. Nutritional adjustments are often necessary to improve GERD symptoms and prevent flare ups and disease progression. Below are some foods to avoid when on a “GERD diet”.
Fatty and fried foods are so rich in saturated fats that they slow down the digestive process. Sluggish digestion function increases stomach acid production, triggering reflux. Many fried foods are full of other potentially harmful ingredients that can impair proper digestive function and overall health.
Citrusy foods increase stomach acid and acid reflux activity. They are high in citric acid, a substance that increases overall acidity levels in the stomach. Symptoms often occur sporadically when triggered but become more frequent when citric acid consumption is regular. Tomatoes are included in this group.
Herb and spices help make food more flavorful, but certain ones are bad for people with gastroesophageal reflux. Tangy, peppery, “spicy” herbs and flavorings are too hot for the esophageal lining, hence their burning sensation. These spices also have a similar effect on the stomach lining.
Coffee is something most people can’t go a day without. It’s tasty, and the caffeine helps provide an extra boost of alertness and energy. Though coffee is essential for many individuals, GERD symptoms are common for some, especially those who consume it excessively. Coffee is a major cause of acid reflux and heartburn due to its caffeine and acidic content.
Chocolate is highly acidic to the stomach and is a known source of stomach and esophagus irritation and inflammation. It also contains caffeine and sugar, both are known GERD triggers.
Dairy products like milk and cheese are rich in fat and can aggravate GERD symptoms. Even a tasty, yet cold treat, such as ice cream, can prevent the seal between the stomach and esophagus from functioning correctly. This structure is called the esophageal sphincter,, and it keeps your stomach contents from backflowing into your esophagus, throat, and mouth. Some individuals experience little to no GERD symptoms with low-fat dairy products.
Certain drinks and beverages, such as alcohol, sodas, juices, and teas have a relaxing effect on the lower esophageal sphincter(LES) that prevents it from sealing properly. This makes it easier for gastric acid and stomach contents to leak up back into the esophagus.
Despite the above foods being known as GERD triggers, some people find it possible to manage their symptoms without eliminating them from their diets. Everyone is different; certain foods do not always cause symptoms.
Moderation is vital when avoidance is not possible. Food diaries are beneficial for people with food sensitivities that trigger GERD symptoms. You should track their food choices, dietary habits, and GERD symptoms, and use that information to modify their eating habits to prevent adverse issues.
GERD Diet: What Foods to Eat
Not only is moderation key when dealing with foods and reflux disease, some foods are safe, meaning you can enjoy them as much as you want. Many of the foods below are GERD friendly. Consider incorporating more of the following dietary suggestions into your routine.
Vegetables are high in fiber and low in sugar which makes them safe for anyone with GERD to consume. Some veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage are gas and flatulence triggers that may cause reflux symptoms occasionally.
Noncitrus fruits, such as bananas, apples, strawberries, and mangos are low-citrus and low acid making them safe for acid reflux disease patients to enjoy.
Nuts are high in protein, and low in unhealthy fats and help absorb excess stomach acid. Healthy nut choices include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts. Not all types of nuts are safe for consumption with GERD. Some varieties are fatty and can lead to symptom flares in certain individuals.
Whole grains like oatmeal, certain breads, and even brown rice help lower stomach acidity to prevent reflux symptoms. They reportedly absorb excess stomach acid to keep it from escaping from the stomach cavity.
Ginger is a food that’s known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. When consumed, it has a calming effect on the digestive system. Ginger is safe enough to eat and can help prevent reflux symptoms from flaring up.
Diet and Life Changes Are Beneficial for GERD
Along with adopting a GERD friendly diet, it helps to develop healthier behaviors as well. Get in the habit of choosing healthier alternatives to GERD triggering foods. Doing so makes symptoms infrequent and less intense. Also, hydration is also important. Water has a neutralizing effect on stomach acidity. Overall, it helps regulate gut motility, and prevent indigestion. However, a slight word of caution is necessary. Avoid consuming too much water with large meals. Most people with reflux disease are unable to eat large meal portions or right before bedtime. Though water is essential to gut and overall health, moderation is necessary before and during meal and sleep times.
See a GERD Specialist for Treatment
Getting the mind and body in sync about the GERD diet may seem challenging. But with the right mindset and medical support from the Coast Plaza Hospital GI health team, anything is possible.
Sometimes dietary and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to manage the symptoms of GERD. Ultimately, GERD is caused by a physical defect in the esophagus and for many people, symptoms only worsen over time, without medical hlep. If you experience GERD or acid reflux symptoms more than a few times a week, it’s time to see a GI physician for a treatment plan that improves your quality of life.